The COVID-19 pandemic forces colleges to cut sports programs

Since COVID-19 has caused the temporary closing of most colleges and universities, some schools have decided to cut sports programs in order to save money. According to the Associated Press, about 97 college sports teams were cut by the end of May due to the coronavirus. Division II, Division III and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) schools have cut 78 teams: 44 of those were from three schools who closed due to the pandemic. According to Sports Illustrated, 30 Division I teams were cut over a two month period. Some schools who’ve cut programs include Stanford, Brown and the University of Cincinnati. 

These cuts have sparked controversy among members and fans of college sports. People have been raising funds as well as signing petitions to challenge these decisions and prevent more teams from being eliminated. Many argue that removing these programs is a disservice to the college or university, especially because the shutdowns are temporary. Athletes provide their school with money due to their scholarships, tuition, fees for class materials and room and board. So, by cutting funding to sports programs, schools will lose millions of dollars from a dip in tuition and other school fees. Moreover, college athletics also add to a campus’s diversity by, for example, admitting international students to play on their teams. College sports also bring students to smaller colleges and universities. Despite these claims, schools still continue to cut teams and programs. 

But, even as schools cut low revenue sports and keep high revenue ones, schools are still expecting to take a hit financially due to cuts in state and federal funding, loss in ticket sales, drops in donations and decreased support from the school. 

There are arguments that state that schools could keep some of these programs if they were to reduce salaries and travel and furlough staff. Additionally, it is argued that schools could keep teams if football and men’s basketball did not exceed spending in order to match other, more wealthy football and basketball teams. For example, Clemson University spent $55 million on their football team’s locker room. 

Sports officials also worry that cutting sports that appear in the Olympics, like men’s gymnastics and men’s track, will decrease the pool of athletes to choose from when others begin their Olympic training. According to Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, a former member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, colleges play a big role in developing athletes for large international competitions like the Olympics. 

Some believe that these cuts were long-coming, and athletic directors used the pandemic to get rid of low revenue programs that weren’t bringing in lots of profit, like track and tennis. Sports like football and men’s basketball bring in the most money, so the likelihood of their sports being cut is close to zero.